Byron's Babbles


Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 30, 2014


This past week as I was taking my son to school he had the radio on. The song Hey Brother by Aviccii was playing. As is many times the case; I got the lyrics wrong. I thought he was saying “Do you still believe in what I wonder?” In reality he was saying, “Do you still believe in love? I wonder!” Really, I’m glad I had it wrong because it got me thinking. Does my team believe in what I wonder? More importantly, do I believe in what they wonder?

Wonderment is a type of behavior, that as a leader, engenders our teams. We can accomplish this by creating environments where team members can bring their best selves and curiosity, and good things will happen as a result. By cutting off conversation through words or non-verbal cues, a less effective leader sends a message that the team member’s idea isn’t an option or even worthy of pause. Done often enough and pretty soon your team won’t even tell you you’re walking in the wrong direction.

Just as science fairs represent an invaluable learning opportunity for students to use wonderment and curiosity to conceive and develop an experiment, conduct it, prepare the findings and present them to student peers and experts in the field, leaders can use wonderment to find that next solution that does not presently exist. Instead of conducting cookbook lab experiments and submitting a lab report for a grade, science fairs foster independent thinking, creativity, problem-solving and written and oral presentation skills. The same is true for the leader; instead of doing what has always been done or what he thinks is right, spend some time in wonderment with the team!

A well-balanced leader knows that getting the best from their team means letting them talk, fail, succeed, wonder, be curious, and feel comfortable. Thus, as the leader, we have to have the strength to listen to differences and make decisions even if they are opposite to what the group thought was right. Spend some time in wonderment this week!


iREAD Because I Lead!

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 25, 2014
David Marquet's Tweet

David Marquet’s Tweet

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” ~ Harry S. Truman

I was reminded of this quote from our 33rd President this past week when @LDavidMarquet tweeted it. I, of course, immediately retweeted. On the same tweet, he (Marquet) also asked the question, “What book is sitting on your nightstand?” Those that follow me on twitter, @ByronErnest, know that I can’t resist answering questions. So, I answered that I just finished The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen’s Race to the South Pole by Roland Huntford and Paul Theroux. And, since I am such a fan of David Marquet, I had to throw in that he (Marquet) is like Amundsen is this contrast of two leaders. You will also notice from the picture on my response that I am now using GoodReads. It is an awesome way to keep track of books, get recommendations, and make recommendations. It even lets you scan in your books using the barcode. I learned of this app while discussing books with one of our awesome teachers, Allison Marchisani. I love the team we’ve got here because I learn from them every day.

My Response Tweet

My Response Tweet

This post is not a review of any books. I can guarantee you that I will be posting to my blog about David Marquet, however, in the future. So, watch for that, but today my post deals with the importance of reading. It is interesting that earlier in the week before being asked the question of what book was on my nightstand I was reminded of just how many books I have read this past year. In fact the exact number is 35 since July 1 of 2013. The only reason I know this is because our Media Specialist keeps track of it for our iREAD – I Just Finished Reading program. She sent out a report last week and I was amazed, as was our staff, how many books I had read!

Our school has the goal of every student and staff member reading 30 books per year outside of the normal school reading. This is a huge undertaking, but research shows that high school students should be reading 30 books outside of school per year. Therefore, our staff believes that if the students are doing it, we should be doing it. I am excited to already be five over the goal. Keep in mind I read in three modalities: book in hand, Kindle app on my iPad Air, and Audible app for listening. As a leader the benefits of reading are wide-ranging. Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight. Reading — whether Wikipedia, Michael Lewis, or Aristotle — is one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information. Harvard research claimed that reading across fields is good for creativity. As a leader who reads, I can sample insights in other fields, such as sociology, the physical sciences, economics, the military, or psychology, and apply those insights to my own organization. Think about it, I can take the incredible leadership lessons of David Marquet and apply them to my own leadership journey to help us innovate and prosper.

So let me explain how we do our iREAD – I Just Finished Reading program: On the honor system, each student and staff member are responsible for reporting to our media specialist the title of each book finished. The media specialist then records the book and makes a laminated picture of the cover. This cover is then put on the walls out in the building (see picture). Our halls are filling up with cover pictures. It is great to see students and staff perusing the titles and having conversations about the books.

Book Covers

Book Covers

In addition, I have gone one step further with my Principal’s Picks 13-14 Program. As I finish books I actually buy a copy to be put on display in the Principal’s Picks 13-14 Display (see picture) in the media center. A card is placed in each book and staff and students can sign up to win the drawing for their very own copy of the book. There are usually four to seven books that I have read on display at a time. This has been such a fun way to promote reading. In fact it has become quite competitive when it comes drawing time for the books. There have also been some great discussions about reading that have developed out of this program.

As I close this post I would say that I really do believe that leaders are readers. Also, I want to share my list of 35 books I have finished so far since July 1 of 2013. Click on Principal’s Picks 13-14 to see my list. Since everyone will ask which is my favorite of the 35, I’ll tell you: Turn The Ship Around: A True Story of Turning of Turning Followers Into Leaders by David Marquet. Did you make the connection to where I started this post? We are full circle back to David Marquet! Because of iRead I have now made a connection to a great leader and author. Don’t forget if you lead, you must read!!!

Principal's Picks Display

Principal’s Picks Display






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Angry Birds University

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 17, 2014
Power-Up University

Power-Up University

Back in 2012 I wrote a post about Angry Birds for the first time. To read my post The Angry Birds Effect click here. Amazingly, this game has not gone away, but gotten stronger, added different versions, and created tutorials and educational materials. For those few of you who have not had the Angry Birds educational experience, the main goal of the game is to sling-shot birds into a structure made of wood, ice, stone, or other materials in order to have the structure collapse and kill cartoon pigs. Each level offers a more challenging structure to topple and several different kinds of birds (of different sizes and capabilities) to utilize as weapons. Now there are even new versions such as Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds Space, Star Wars Angry Birds, Angry Birds Short Fuse Aftershock, and many more.

I am still a major believer that Angry Birds is a powerful exemplar for facilitation of highly effective learning. As I play the game, I cannot not help but think: what if all teacher’s classrooms were more like this? Would students have a better learning experience? Would there be more focus on learning than teaching? I believe the reason the game is so addictive is because it plays to our meta cognitive skills. We all want instant feedback. We also want the chance to use that feedback to make adjustments and try again to ultimately attain mastery. There is no risk in trying new techniques and there is no limit to the amount of tries. This is why I am a believer in standards mastery grading using a narrative report card.

Angry Birds now has tutorials and additions such as Power-up University. This is a game segment you complete in order to learn to use special “power-up” powers given to the different characters. Power Ups can help you improve your scores in levels and help you get more stars. There are 4 Power-Ups, and you can use 2 per level. Here are the 4 Power-Ups:

  • Super Seeds: Super Seeds turn any bird on the slingshot bigger and tougher.
  • King Sling: King Sling upgrades your slingshot so that when flung, birds can go faster and farther than before.
  • Sling Scope: Sling Scope allows you to see where your bird’s gonna go before you fling them.
  • Birdquake: Birdquake rumbles the ground in a level and can make pig’s structures fall down.

As in the best video games, students need a safe place to try and fail until they succeed. There is the buzzword,  “gamification” in education. Many are just taking this to mean using games for teaching, but I believe we should be on the quest to make learning more like a video game. In order to do this let’s take a look at the best practices we can learn from Angry Birds that I outlined in my original post The Angry Birds Effect:

1. Early in the game, the single Red Bird is the only one available-basic knowledge.

2. Players advance at their own pace.

3. Mastery is required to advance – You must have cleared a level three times with   score improvement each time before moving on.

Instant Feedback

Instant Feedback

4. As the player advances, new levels are introduced.

5. The player can move ahead and clear levels beyond the one they are presently in, but not too far.

6. Different contexts are portrayed (deserts, gem mine, city at night, et cetera) to make it interesting and relevant to the player.

7. The player is given new tools (different types of birds) to use as he/she advances and unlocks higher levels.

8. Immediate feedback is given. The player knows the score immediately.

9. Ability to go back and retry and review any level any time.

10. The next level is always “just above” (Christensen et al., 2011) the players ability. Not too far above, but “just above.”

It is no wonder we are all addicted to this game! Now if only we could ensure that our classrooms are always safe spaces to practice new strategies, offer students a range of possibilities for how to succeed in their learning, give our students constant feedback, and support knowledge transfer within and among our courses. Angry Birds could be our exemplar for helping to close the achievement gap!


Christensen, C.M., Horn, M.B., Johnson, C.W. (2011). Disrupting class:How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns, expanded edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.